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Ginkgo Petrified Forest Interpretive Trails

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One of the largest petrified forests on the planet sits in the center of Washington State. The ancient trees were mineralized into rock during the great lava flows that swept the inland Northwest. In addition to petrified ginkgos (one of the oldest tree species in the world), the "rock forest" includes mineralized Douglas fir, spruce, walnut, and elm.

The trails here offer the perfect introduction to the desert landscape of the basin for newbie desert rats. The first 0.25-mile loop is paved for access to one and all, while the longer loops lead up to 3 miles back through the desert. You'll find stunning examples of the incredible diversity of trees that lived and died here millions of years ago. The petrified remains of these long-gone trees dot the landscape bisected by the interpretive trails. Little bits of petrified wood dot the landscape as well, and you'll find shards on other trails in the broad area surrounding this valley.

This trail provides easy access as well to great examples of the springtime flora and fauna known to the region: yellow bells, mariposa lily, grass widow, prairie star flower, salt and pepper desert parsley and other desert parsleys, buckwheats, and buttercups. Meadowlarks sing for you as you walk, and bluebirds keep a wary eye on all passersby. Interpretive signing is provided along the trail.
Driving Directions:

From Ellensburg, drive east on Interstate 90 to exit 136 for Huntzinger Road. At the end of the exit ramp, turn left and drive 2.3 miles past Vantage on the Old Vantage highway to the Ginkgo Petrified Forest Interpretive Trails parking lot at the park ranger building.

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 10 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Ginkgo Petrified Forest Interpretive Trails — Feb 14, 2014 — mOuNtAiNeEr51
Day hike
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I saw the herd of over a dozen bighorn sheep! Photos: http://www.nwhikers.net/forums/viewtopic.ph...
I saw the herd of over a dozen bighorn sheep! Photos:

http://www.nwhikers.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=8009495
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Ginkgo Petrified Forest Interpretive Trails — Feb 13, 2014 — stacij
Day hike
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Been enjoying the sunny weather when we can. We hike a few miles around the Gingko Interpretive Trai...
Been enjoying the sunny weather when we can. We hike a few miles around the Gingko Interpretive Trails and then ventured over off Recreation Road in the Gingko State Park lands and hiked around a few more miles to catch the views of Vantage. Would recommend any time of year.
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Ginkgo Petrified Forest Interpretive Trails — Sep 18, 2013 — Alpine Art
Day hike
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This is our third hike in Eastern Washington this year and one that did not disappoint. It is a bit...
This is our third hike in Eastern Washington this year and one that did not disappoint. It is a bit of a drive (about 160 miles one way) and wait {rock blasting at pass resulted in an 1.5 hour wait to cross} but the positives are great weather (a bit breezy but warm - in high 70's at the park) and nice trail walking. The walk took about 1 hour 15 minutes with lots of stops to look at the petrified trees.

Its hard to imagine the forces which created the petrified trees or the variety of trees present in the park. A local person (a farmer or agricultural mogul) gave us a brief geologic history of the area. I knew about the Lake Missoula floods and the volcanic history of this area but not in such detail as described by our friendly interpreter. The scars from the flooding is evident on "Saddle Back Mt.".

The "back country" trails are in good shape and a fairly easy walk. Lots of petrified trees are caged to protect them from souvenir hunters. A sad commentary on our species.

In short this is a great walk, not too far from Seattle but with a different climate (more sun) and nice people to help you understand what you are looking at. We enjoyed a great and inexpensive meal in Ellensburg at a Mexican restaurant on the street going into downtown. The Mexican food here is much better than the many fast food places I've tried in the past in Ellensburg.
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Ginkgo Petrified Forest Interpretive Trails — May 21, 2013 — Bob and Barb
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
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We headed east to avoid the rain in the Yakima Canyon and hiked the 3 mile interpretive trail at Gin...
We headed east to avoid the rain in the Yakima Canyon and hiked the 3 mile interpretive trail at Ginkgo Petrified Forest SP. The cages which hold the petrified wood are distracting, but one can understand why they have to be this way. It is sad to see the garbage that people put inside some of the cages. :(! Most of the flowers were past their prime, but we did see some sagebrush Mariposa lilies, purple sage, hopsage, and many bouquets of a yellow flower I haven't been able to identify as yet. After our hike, we went to the Interpretive Center which is about 2 miles east of the trail. It was closed today, but there are many pieces of petrified wood to see outside and a short trail to Native American petroglyphs.
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Ginkgo Petrified Forest Interpretive Trails — Dec 22, 2012 — Loren Drummond
Day hike
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We stopped for a mini hike (just a mile or two) to break up the drive between Seattle and Spokane. I...
We stopped for a mini hike (just a mile or two) to break up the drive between Seattle and Spokane. It was a good choice, since we had a solid hour of sunshine, the only sun we saw across the entire state. Will be stopping here again, and exploring the backcountry trail here too. It's a lovely, convenient spot for a fall, spring or winter hike (summer might get a little hot).

Highlights:
Sunshine, views and elk. While the petrified trees are interesting, the lovely little hiking trail up to the ridge was a great chance to stretch our legs and get our heart rate up a bit. We spotted lots of fresh tracks and scat on the trail and were rewarded with a view of a large elk herd one ridge over, the Columbia in the distance. Dramatic clouds and great desert views topped things off.

Trail:
There are basically two loops starting at the interpretive center, one that just visits the trees, and a longer one that climbs a bit more and intersects the smaller trail. I believe the sign said it was 3 miles around the longest route...not bad for an interpretive center. The trail was a little soggy, but in great shape and very cushy. Great for spotting wildlife tracks.

Logistics:
The interpretive center parking lot is very easy to find even without directions. It's well signed all the way from the highway. We were the only car in the parking lot. If you don't have a Discover Pass or forget it at home, you can purchase a day pass there with cash.
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photo1_large.jpeg
The trail. By Eric Jain.
Location
Eastern Washington -- Yakima
Washington State Parks and Recreation
Statistics
Roundtrip 3.0 miles
Elevation Gain 200 ft
Highest Point 2600 ft
Features
Old growth
Wildflowers/Meadows
Wildlife
User info
Discover Pass required
Guidebooks & Maps
Best Desert Hikes: Washington (Bauer & Nelson - Mountaineers Books)
Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Yakima

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Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

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